UPPER GULF SHORE – Lisa Betts considers herself an environmentalist, but she’s preparing to do battle with wind turbine companies and local governments because of plans to build towering windmills too close to residential areas.
“I’ve been a green person since I was a kid more than 40 years ago. I recycle and compost. I’m pro being green, so it’s kind of hard taking on a sacred cow of the move toward green energy,” Ms. Betts said in an interview Saturday.
“But I feel I have to. What is being proposed as setbacks (the distance the closest turbine can be to a home) for wind turbines by Cumberland County Council just isn’t sufficient.
“I moved here because of the peace and quiet. What they are proposing will alter that because they will be allowing companies to build way too close to residential areas.”
Regulations being proposed by the county recommend that setbacks be 300 per cent of a windmill’s height. That means a 120-metre-tall turbine would have to be at least 360 metres from a home.
Ms. Betts believes the setback should be 10 times the height of a turbine, or two kilometres, whichever is furthest away from a residence.
“I’d like them even further away, but I’ve picked the middle ground,” she said. “That distance would mean people wouldn’t be bothered by shadow flicker or noise or ice throw.”
Those problems have concerned her since she began investigating wind power two and a half years ago. That’s when Atlantic Wind Inc. erected an 80-metre tower in a field about 300 metres from her home to test wind speeds. The company is examining the possibility of erecting 20 to 27 turbines in the fields surrounding her home.
“When I first started looking into it, I didn’t find much about wind power,” she said.
She went to two poorly attended meetings in Pugwash on different wind power projects. Initially she was in favour of the projects, but the more she looked into the subject, the more her viewpoint changed.
She became concerned, not only about the noise and the shadow flicker, but also about the effect the turbines’ infrasound (low level sound) might have on her health.
Other concerns – the potential health effects of proximity to high voltage power lines, the possibility of ice being thrown from the turbine blades, injuries to birds and bats flying into the blades or that the rotors could fail and be thrown from the turbines – led her to the conclusion that the county’s proposed setbacks are not adequate.
Visits to a wind project on Higgins Mountain near Wentworth, where three turbines have recently been erected, added to her conviction that the windmills must be placed farther away from homes.
“There was only one running and the noise was so bad I initially thought a plane had to be flying by. I even looked for it, but it wasn’t a plane making the noise, it was the turbine,” she said.
She has talked with her neighbours “and none of us like the idea of having turbines so close to our homes.”
“We can’t understand why in Cumberland County, where there is so much room, that any turbine would have to be built as close to a residential area as they are suggesting.”
Ms. Betts has established a blog – pugwashwindfarm.blogspot.com – that details her findings and also provides links to the companies that are proposing to build wind farms in the county.
“I want to give a balanced approach so people can make a balanced decision,” Ms. Betts said. “I’m hoping it will encourage them to support my position and that they will pressure the county to change their proposed setback.”
Besides the blog, she plans to make a presentation to county council on April 4 to outline her concerns. She is hoping others make their concerns known when the county holds a public meeting on the matter on April 18.
That’s also the date the county is expected to vote on the second reading of its proposed wind turbine setback legislation.
By Tom McCoag
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